Date
16 August 2017
Hong Kong could see another flu outbreak later this year after the current one, which is expected to peak around the Chinese New Year, experts say. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong could see another flu outbreak later this year after the current one, which is expected to peak around the Chinese New Year, experts say. Photo: HKEJ

As flu toll mounts, experts urge more precautions

An infectious diseases expert has urged senior citizens, pregnant women, people with chronic ailments and those having a history of being vulnerable to virus attacks to wear face-masks when going out in the public in Hong Kong.

Yuen Kwok-yung from Hong Kong University’s microbiology department pointed that such “people at high risk” made up 99 percent of the death toll in the city’s latest flu outbreak, Metro Hong Kong reported.

The expert advised people to take precautions and maintain proper hygiene, including washing the hands more often.

Another eight people died of flu in Hong Kong Thursday, taking the death toll from the virus to 126 in the latest outbreak, according to data from the Center for Health Protection.

Yuen said only 0.2 percent of those that died of flu so far were classified as people with no high risk, compared to 15 percent during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

Therefore, there is no reason for the general public overall to panic, he said.

However, the government needs to consider more countermeasures if the rate climbs up to 1 percent, Yuen said.

He pointed out that vaccination is important, but noted that the city is extremely short of flu vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization.

Having said that, the effective rate of protection from the vaccines is only 20 percent, as the current H3N2 flu virus is a new variant, he said.

Yuen believes there could be another outbreak after the current one, possibly during the July-August or December-January periods.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ho Pak-Leung, a HKU microbiologist, said the government should demand that all the pupils in kindergartens and primary schools be made to wear masks as the flu may hit a peak around the Chinese New Year that starts on February 19.

Dr. Leung Ting-hung, controller of the Center for Health Protection, said there is no need for all citizens to wear masks as the epidemic has been stabilizing for the past three weeks.

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TL/AC/RC

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